The comedy podcast universe is ever expanding, not unlike the universe universe. We’re here to make it a bit smaller, a bit more manageable. There are a lot of great shows and each has a lot of great episodes, so we want to highlight the exceptional, the noteworthy. Each week our crack team of podcast enthusiasts and specialists and especially enthusiastic people will pick their favorites. We hope to have your ears permanently plugged with the best in aural comedy.
WTF with Marc Maron - Remembering Robin Williams
LEIGH: Late Monday night after the news of Robin Williams’s passing, WTF host Marc Maron pulled out an archived episode from April 2010 in which he sat down with the comedy legend. It was a conversation Maron says not only changed other people’s perception of Williams, but one that changed his life. The episode, reposted with a new, extremely moving and heartfelt introduction, is an incredibly candid conversation, offering a glimpse into Williams’ life at the time – both the successes and the struggles. He opens up about addiction, his family, and how he approached standup as therapy and a relief from celebrity. As Maron recalls, he was happy to talk, and in doing so Maron not only learned about Williams but also about just being there for other people. And, as he so perfectly puts it upfront, “there’s nobody that wasn’t touched by Robin Williams at one time.” It goes without saying that this is a must-listen episode if there’s ever been one.
Comedy Bang! Bang! - Marissa Wompler’s Six Flags Birthday Womptacular
ROB: It’s summer, so it’s time for another Comedy Bang Bang Womptacular! It’s now tradition to tape these “on location,” so Marissa Wompler’s (Jessica St. Clair) 17th birthday takes place in a DJ booth above the Log Flume ride at Six Flags Magic Mountain. CBB actually sets the scene well, flush with an ambient background filled with amusement park sounds and a soundtrack that occasionally (and hilariously) clashes with the ongoing teenage melodrama. And there is a lot of melodrama, as several characters from Wompler’s universe show up, creating several emotional twists and turns throughout the show. In fact, “a lot” is the key to the episode, which features seven CBB comedians and nearly twice as many characters. With so much going on, the improv can get a bit chaotic, and it’s a testament to the group that everything stays on target as much as it does. But that looseness also magnifies the comedy, with hysterical bits like Seth Wompler (Brian Huskey) occasionally breaking the “tension” to take a six-count group photo or Lennon Parham genuinely (?) singing so terribly that you can hear Jason Mantzoukas gasping for air off-mic. It’s another canon-heavy episode, so new listeners will be bewildered by the references and storylines. In fact, this episode establishes a few interconnections to other parts of the CBB/Earwolf canon, which is getting so complex it’s becoming its own standalone, comic book-like universe. But that’s a good thing. It’s nice to escape reality sometimes.
ZOE: One of the reasons The Daily Show has thrived for so long is its artful balance between the incisive and the sincere. It’s got it all: passion, humor, integrity, wit—and it does it all in heels. So how does The Daily Show do it? Can it have it all? The answer is “yes,” and here to spill its secrets is The Daily Show Podcast without Jon Stewart. Head writer Elliott Kalan and correspondent Jessica Williams co-host the debut episode, which features a nice balance of topics. Williams starts by discussing how she and other writers used their own experiences to write the segment on sexual assault on college campuses (which is worth another view because it’s brilliant). She perfectly sums up the nightmarish, video game-like reality women experience on a constant basis, and which men usually aren’t aware of. It’s a shining example of how one joke can bring new immediacy to an often ignored topic. For the second half of the episode, J.R. Havlan, a previous staff writer and host of Writers’ Bloc Podcast, comes on to talk about his 18-year career on the show and life since leaving it. When asked about the biggest thing he learned, he says, “The important thing is not just the facts, but the emotion, the feelings, what is underneath the facts,” which summarizes the spirit behind Williams’s earlier point. New staff will be on for each episode, so stay tuned for more of The Daily Show crew, but definitely not Jon Stewart.
Doodie Calls - Steve Basilone
PABLO: It’s been a couple of months, but the podcast devoted to the most embarrassing of crises has returned, albeit on a more, let’s say, irregular schedule because of host Doug Mand’s commitment to the upcoming Billy Crystal vehicle The Comedians. But this back-logged episode was well worth the wait as guest Steve Basilone has not one, but four incredible shit stories, some featuring Hollywood A-list stars like Matthew Perry and Seth Rogen. Let’s just say the sweat-inducing anxiety of untreated ulcerative colitis combined with a mansion’s overflowing toilet is only increased when the booming laughter of Mr. Rogen can be heard in the background. But these tales pale in comparison to Basilone’s centerpiece: the worst one-night stand ever… which had already reached the “worst ever” status before he crapped his pants in his hook-up’s kitchen. The episode also starts with a sad recounting of Mand offering to buy pants for someone who was having his own Doodie Calls situation in a film studio bathroom. Sadly, Mand was silently rebuffed by the embarrassed man who should have swallowed his pride and remembered that every single president, every crown prince, every world-conquering emperor who ever lived, has pooped his pants at least once.
Bad 4 Business with Jerry Ferrara - Doug Ellin
MARC: If you’re a fan of HBO’s late series Entourage, you probably have been lying awake nights wondering, “Whatever became of the guy who played Turtle?” Relax. He’s fine. Not only is he in the feature film followup to the popular series (due out next year), but he’s now got a podcast. Bad 4 Business with Jerry Ferrara is a perfect destination spot for Entourage fans, as he’s had friends from the cast and crew as guests every other episode. But whether he’s calling in favors or brining in fresh meat, Ferrara proves to be an engaging host, with the same voice and attitude fans of the show will recognize right away. In Episode 6 his guest is Doug Ellin, Entourage’s showrunner and the director of the upcoming film. There’s a lot of insidery stuff from the show – for instance, we discover that Kevin Dillon, who played “Johnny Drama,” broke his wrist while playing basketball on camera during season 2 and had to have his busted wing hidden with artful blocking for several episodes. And both Ellin and Ferrara crack each other up relating how nervous they were that the show was ever going to take off, let alone become the hit that it went on to be. There are some great stories about the big name cameos and what Ellin had to do in order to secure folks like Matt Damon (who just wanted the name of his charity to prominently installed in the storyline) and quarterback Tom Brady, who was good-natured even when Turtle first meets him with a confrontational “You suck balls!” Fair warning: Ferrara is a huge sports fan, and he’s warned that the show will likely get more sports-flavored as the football and basketball seasons come on.
Other Podcasts We’re Listening To:
Don’t Ever Change - Nikki Glaser
Call Chelsea Peretti - McCravin Slop
Bill Burr’s Monday Morning Podcast - Jerry Ferrara
WTF with Marc Maron - Bob Newhart
The JV Club - Howard Kremer
The Poundcast - Candy Dads
Never Not Funny - Maria Bamford
How Was Your Week? - David Rees
Lady to Lady - Aisha Tyler
Leigh Cesiro is a writer living in Brooklyn who only needs 10 minutes to solve any Law & Order: SVU episode.
Pablo Goldstein is a writer from Los Angeles, CA.
Rob Schoon lives in Brooklyn and writes about tech, media, comedy and culture.
Zoe Schwab is a writer/fraud living in NYC who is somehow up-to-date with ABC Family’s Melissa & Joey.